The recently revised Federal Act on Swiss Citizenship puts in place new eligibility requirements for applying for Swiss citizenship. We have listed below the most significant changes for the ordinary naturalization process that apply to all applications filed on or after 1 January 2018.
Previously it was required to have lived in Switzerland for a total of twelve years over one’s lifetime before starting the process. This period has now been reduced to ten years. Although this particular requirement has been relaxed, other more restrictive conditions have been implemented. Moreover, the new law provides additional details as to what constitutes “being well integrated” in Switzerland which is another prerequisite to begin the naturalisation procedure.
10 years of residence in Switzerland
An applicant must have lived in Switzerland for a minimum of ten years, three of those years must be within the last five years prior to the time of the filing of the application. Only years residing in Switzerland with a B-, F- or C-Permit are considered.
Swiss C- permit
At the time of filing, the applicant must have a Swiss C- permit (permanent residence card). This requirement is of particular importance for applicants from countries, which do not have a specific agreement with Switzerland regarding permanent residence. Such individuals are generally only able to apply for a C-Permit after ten years residency in Switzerland.
Be well integrated in Switzerland
The notion of integration is a main prerequisite for Swiss naturalisation. The new rules define this concept in more detail, including specific minimum language requirements, more restrictive requirements to the applicant’s financial situation as well as a more in-depth review of criminal records.
The revised rules now refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages guidelines for judging sufficient language skills. An applicant must now have B1 level speaking skills and A2 level writing skills. In addition, most cantons require the language skills to be in the official language of the canton of residence.
Previously, an individual was not eligible to apply for naturalisation if the individual was receiving social welfare at the time of application with no reference to any welfare payments made prior to application. It is now required that the applicant not have received any welfare benefits during the last three years prior to the time of filing the application for citizenship. The authorities can waive this requirement if the support has been reimbursed by the application filing date.
|Requirement||Old rules valid until 31.12.2017||New rules valid as of 1.1.2018|
|Years of residence in Switzerland||
Twelve years with N-, L-, B-, F- and C- Permit
Years residing in Switzerland between the ages of 10 and 20 count double.
Ten years with B- and C-Permit – Years of residence with F-permit only count 50%
Years residing in Switzerland between the ages of 8 and 18 count double.
|Residence permit type required||B-, F- and C- Permit||C- Permit|
|Financial independence||Applicant must not be receiving welfare benefits at time of application.||Applicant must not have received welfare benefits during the last three years prior to application.|
|Language skills||No federal requirement. Cantonal requirement to language skills of a national language might apply.||Minimum requirement of B1 speaking skills and A2 writing skills of a national language.|
Additional cantonal and communal requirement
The above-mentioned rules are minimum Federal requirements. Cantons may apply stricter conditions than those outlined in the Federal legislation as well as define the exact process on the cantonal as well as the communal level. For example, some cantons require minimum scores on general Swiss knowledge tests.
In addition to the Federal ten year residence requirement, the applicant may also be subject to additional cantonal and communal residency requirements. For example, the canton of Zug requires applicants to have lived in the canton for at least five years prior to filing the application. In addition, the applicant must have lived in the commune of residence continuously for the last three years.
|Canton||Years of residence in Switzerland||Years of residence in canton||Years of continuous residence in commune|
||2 years||2 years|
|Zug||10 years||5 years||3 years|
|Vaud||10 years||2 years||Depends on commune|
Some applicants, due to their personal circumstances, are subject to a facilitated application process. This applies in particular to spouses of Swiss citizens.
Although the Federal Council has been successful in implementing harmonized minimum requirements across Switzerland, in particular for what constitutes being well integrated in Swiss society, the cantons still have considerable leeway in defining this concept as well as control over some key aspects of the naturalisation process. It is, therefore, important for those considering applying for Swiss citizenship to get informed in advance as to the exact Federal, cantonal and communal prerequisites for application in order to avoid losing time and limit frustration with this (somewhat arduous) application process.
Deloitte has significant experience assisting applicants with managing the end-to-end process, if you are interested in learning more about the Swiss naturalisation process, please contact Timo Heck and Julia Stutzer for further information.